" Nothing/' he said. " You're just crazy as a little hoot owl
Don't you know that? A little hoot owl." At the very moment
of utterance he had been aware that his voice sounded exactly
as always when he spoke teasingly to her. Hell, he thought, I
sound like a fool.
" But there is, Perse. You know there is. Are you sick?"
" No," he said shortly, feeling his nerves stiffen.
" I know there is, Perse."
"But you've changed, Perse, you know you have. You
aren't like you used to be. To me, or in any way. What's
the matter, Perse?"
By that time he had released her and moved from her a
pace or two. With those words she stretched out her hand
to him, not strongly, as though to grasp him or command
him to her, but with a motion that from the start confessed
its own ineffectuality.
" Nothing," he said, watching her gesture and feeling an
unnamable and deep dissatisfaction at it. He turned suddenly
and walked across the room and through the hall and out to
the porch, permitting the screen door to slam behind him
with a flat sound. He walked away across the yard and down
the lane leading to the big road. After a while he came back
and stood, with his cold pipe between his teeth, in the yard
under the leafing sugar trees. He was able to see May seated
on the sofa in the living-room, her face averted and the lamp-
light falling on her hair. Once, long before, at night like this,
he had stood under one of the blasted cedars on the Burn-
ham place, where May lived then with her aunt, Miss Lucy
Burnham, and he had looked back toward the house. Like
tonight, May sat alone then, beyond the window, with the
lamplight falling upon her hair. How bravely, it had always
seemed to him, her head supported those massy-looking coils,
which appeared too heavy for her smallness, too grown-up,
almost, for the delicate clarity of the face beneath them.
Ordinarily, she carried her head high; as though by a con-
sistent act of will, but an act not quite comprehending its